Pakistan becomes chair of IAEA board

Pakistan became the new chair of the UN nuclear watchdog’s governing body on Monday.

Western diplomats have suggested they do not see the choice as ideal because – like India, North Korea and Israel – Pakistan has shunned the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that is at the heart of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s work.

But Western powers did not oppose the nominee of a group of Middle East and South Asia member states at a meeting of the IAEA board on Monday, which approved the choice by acclamation, one diplomat who attended the closed-door session said.

Pakistan is a longstanding member of the Vienna-based IAEA and the choice was within its rules.

The one-year board chair position rotates between regions, who put forward their own nominee, and entails chairing debates of the IAEA’s 35-nation decision-making body and helping them reach consensus decisions.

It does not give Pakistan individual powers to decide UN nuclear policy. Malaysia currently chairs the board.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Pakistan has about 60 warheads while regional rival India has 60-70. Both nations conducted nuclear tests in 1998.

Heaping pressure on Pakistan, a high-level UN meeting called on Friday for talks to start immediately on a treaty to ban production of fissile material used as fuel for atom arms.